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HIS CAREER STARTED IN AN OFF-BROADWAY PRODUCTION WHEN HE WAS ONLY THIRTEEN By Kay Anderson

Have you ever wondered how difficult it must have been to cast the right actors and actresses for the leading parts in Fame?  Not only did the producers have to find people of high school age - or not far off - who were good singers, expert dancers and accomplished musicians, but they also had to make sure that the individuals they picked had acting talent, too, and loads of stamina in order to take all the hard work involved in making a TV series!  At the same time, the people chosen couldn't be too polished otherwise they wouldn't have made believable high school students.

The role of Danny Amatullo was a particularly difficult one to cast.  He was a drama student who yearned to be a stand-up comic, which made him a pretty complex character.  The actor chosen to play Danny would not only need a natural gift for humour, but would have to be able to reflect the doubts and over-reactions which are a part of Danny's character.  And out of all the young men who auditioned for the part, Carlo Imperato was the perfect choice.

Unlike Carlo who plays him, Danny isn't always likeable at first impression. He's so hungry for attention and affection that he's afraid to let his vulnerability show, and so he goes round with a cocky, wise-cracking, I-don't-need-anyone attitude.  He wants to make people laugh so that they will care about him - but he hasn't yet realised that people have to care about a person before he can make them laugh. Danny also possesses a little more enthusiasm than talent where singing is concerned, and he's a notoriously awkward dancer though he's improving with every episode!

Carlo himself  is quite different from Danny.  He's friendly and soft-spoken, with less of the flat, nasal New York accent that you hear in Danny's voice, and he doesn't talk as fast.  He stands up straighter than Danny does, so you're more aware of his broad shoulders and athletic build. In fact, he is a natural athlete who plays and enjoys most sports, including baseball, soccer and football.

He's also an accomplished gymnast, and enjoys dirt-biking and disco rollerskating.  He's been a karate student since the age of ten and has attained a black belt in the art.  So you can see that while Danny may be a little uncoordinated and clumsy, Carlo certainly isn't.

It doesn't only take exceptional ability to play a character less talented or skilled than you are yourself - it also takes great confidence.  As an actor, it's your natural impulse to pull out all the stops and do everything as well as you possibly can, since you've worked so hard to polish your talents and learn your skills. And there is always the worry that people watching you won't, realise you're acting, and will think you can't do any better than your screen character does!  Because Harpo Marx never spoke during his performances, some people mistakenly thought he really was dumb.  When comedian jack Benny used to saw away on his violin, hideously out-of-tune, some people didn't realise it was just part of his comedy routine and would never have believed he was really an accomplished musician who played solos with symphony orchestras.  The fact that Danny's slight ineptness comes across convincingly is a tribute to Carlo's ability as an actor.

Carlo Imperato Jr. was born in the Bronx, part of New York City, on August 3rd, 1963.  He has an older sister, Lisa, who is married and works as a travel agent.  When he was thirteen he decided to audition for a part in an off-Broadway production called "The Runaways".

In some ways that play, by the young playwright Elizabeth Swados, resembles Fame.  The author said in the programme that she wanted to explore the effects of a poor family life on adolescents and illustrate how some of them channelled their energies into succeeding in the theatre.

To his family's amazement, as the Imperatos have never been connected with showbusiness, Carlo was accepted and allowed the freedom to create and develop a character called A.). (short for Anthony Junior), to deliver the loosely-structured collection of songs and speeches in the show.

"The Runaways" became a hit and received such good reviews that it moved to Broadway and ran there for a year.  The reviewer for the 'New York Times' said that Carlo was "personable and assertive, a small bundle of stage presence as he sings 'Let me be young before I get old.'

During the play's run, Carlo decided that he definitely wanted to follow a career in acting, so he transferred from Christopher Columbus High School to the Professional Children's School, a performing arts high school similar to the one in Fame.

He also acquired an agent during the run of the play, and has never been out of work since.  He has made many TV commercials and has done guest spots on several TV comedy series.  His stage work includes appearances in a play called "Tablesettings", and in a contemporary re-telling of Moliere's comedy "Tartuffe".

His television drama debut came in the NBC TV movie "The Hayburners", followed by "Shoe Shine Girl" and "The Man In The Santa Claus Suit", which starred the legendary dancer Fred Astaire.

When auditions were held for the Fame TV series, Carlo won the proposed role of the tough-on-the-outside but tender-on-the-inside Danny.  Since Carlo's family background is Italian despite his straight sandy blond hair and blue eyes, Danny, too, was given an Italian name, Amatullo.  By the way, Danny is not actually short for Daniel, but for Dante, another Italian name. Producer Mel Swope's secretary, Kim Kaufman, creates and keeps track of many of the details which make Fame so realistic, including naming some of the characters, and it was she who gave Danny the same last name as the producer's assistant on the show, Tony Amatullo.  At first Tony was a little embarrassed about it, but now he takes great pride in his 'son'!

Carlo lives alone in Los Angeles and, like most of the cast members who hail from New York City, he misses his family and friends there and loves to go back whenever he gets some time off from the series.  New York and Los Angeles are very different and there are advantages and disadvantages about each.  Carlo reckons you can't get real, decent Italian food in L.A. - but, on the other hand, Los Angeles provides beautiful beaches and a variety of sports facilities, and as most of the American entertainment industry is based on the West Coast, Carlo will hopefully be able to make the kind of contacts that will enable him to further his ambitions to be a director and producer, as well as an actor.

He certainly has none of, the problems poor Danny has on the show!  Danny has a father who cannot understand his son's desire to be a professional comedian.  He has to put a lot more effort into his dancing and singing than many of the others at the Performing Arts High School, and he also finds it difficult to put his emotions into words.

But the real-life Carlo is skilful and articulate and has a family who are extremely proud of him and back him every inch of the way.  In fact, you could say that, in Fame, Danny Amatullo's ultimate ambition would be to become someone like Carlo Imperato!
 
 

This interview was provided to me by Stuart Farrell.
The article above is from the Official Fame Magazines from 1983. The OFFICIAL FAME MAGAZINE was published by Beat Publications Ltd. and the interviews are copyright MGM/UA Entertainment Co.

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